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Published: 12/12/2012

John Heinrich, 1948-2012: Just-retired pilot had been track star at Start

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
John Heinrich. John Heinrich.
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John Heinrich, a high school and college track star who became an Air Force pilot instructor, an Ohio Air National Guard officer, and a commercial airline pilot, died Sunday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township. He was 64.

Mr. Heinrich of Springfield Township retired Oct. 1 as a Delta Air Lines captain. He planned to buy a small airplane in the spring. He and his wife wanted to take a trip each month. They returned from their first, a trip to the Napa Valley in California, on Oct. 27. He was found the next day suffering the effects of a brain aneurysm, his wife, Lisa, said.

Mr. Heinrich golfed. The couple were scuba divers — “and he was a workout fanatic,” his wife said. “He was in the most phenomenal shape of any 64-year-old man you’d ever want to meet.”

He also was a vice president and senior financial adviser with the Heinrich-Kamal Group, affiliated with Merrill Lynch. He worked with pilots to plan their retirement finances.

“He was always so good with numbers, and he thoroughly enjoyed it,” his wife said. “He cared about people.”

He was born July 10, 1948, to Lena and Ralph Heinrich and grew up in West Toledo. He was a graduate of Start High School and, while there, specialized in high and low hurdles on the track team and competed in state championships. He also played football, but he attended Ohio State University on a track-and-field scholarship.

He was in ROTC at Ohio State and he became a second lieutenant in the Air Force after graduation, said his former wife, Sharon Looney. He was a fighter pilot instructor during the Vietnam War and was stationed at Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi.

“He was very patient and very good teaching his students how to fly,” she said. “John was always dedicated to whatever he was involved in.”

He had a master’s degree from Mississippi State University.

Back in Toledo, he was a lieutenant colonel in the 180th Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard based at Toledo Express Airport. He was flying F-16 fighter jets when he retired in 1994, but for much of his Air Guard career, he flew A-7s.

As a fighter pilot, Mr. Heinrich maintained the focus of an athlete, said Kent Ernsberger, also a retired lieutenant colonel with the 180th.

“He was always very fit and prepared to fly missions,” Mr. Ernsberger said. “He lived life to the fullest. He was very, very outgoing, and when you were in the presence of John, there were going to be a lot of laughs.”

Mr. Heinrich’s commercial airline career dated to the 1980s, when he was hired by the former Northwest Airlines, which later merged with Delta.

Surviving are his wife, Lisa, whom he married June 14, 1991; sons, Don and Joseph; sisters, Marilyn Stapleton and Susan Broeren, and two grandsons.

Services will be at 10:30 a.m. today in the Heritage Church of God, Monclova Township, where he was a member.

The family suggests tributes to Pilots for Kids in White Lake, Mich., the Toledo Area Humane Society, or Hospice of Northwest Ohio.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.



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